Jean-Luc Tingaud / RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Bizet: Roma

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Apart from the opera Carmen, the Symphony in C major, and the suites of incidental music for the play L'Arlésienne, the music of Georges Bizet tends toward the obscure, despite its great tunefulness and obvious technical competence. For this CD, Jean-Luc Tingaud and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra present two of the more significant minor works, the Roma Symphony and the Petite Suite, along with several shorter pieces that are infrequently played. The Overture in A major and the Marche funèbre in B minor are neglected because they are early works, though they are no worse than many French orchestral pieces of the time, and Bizet's knack for writing memorable melodies lifts them above mediocrity. The jaunty Patrie Overture has had a better track record with modern audiences and is often encountered as filler on recordings and on pops concerts. An orchestral version of five piano pieces from the collection Jeux d'enfants, the Petite Suite is usually paired on recordings with the Symphony in C major because of its similar lightheartedness. In the end, Roma is the most substantial work offered here, and Bizet's flair for dramatic scene painting and dark passions is on full display, anticipating the volatile atmosphere of Carmen. The performances of all the selections are first-rate, and this album is recommended for anyone who is curious about Bizet's less familiar music.

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